The California Collegiate League is holding out hope. Amongst changes in California’s Covid-19 guidelines the CCL reaffirmed hope to play a shortened season as the league’s San Luis Obispo Blues cancelled their 2020 year. The CCL season has been delayed until July 1st.
“We are not at a point where we are ready to cancel our season,” said Arroyo Seco General Manager Aaron Milam who has been leading the CCL office during the 2020 season. “But we also realize based on the phasing of the state we cannot start in June.”
The Blues made the decision to cancel their season Monday due to sponsorship agreement issues with a shortened season and health concerns. “They felt they were morally and ethically bound to not play and be a place where the virus could spread,” Milam said. The Blues plan to return in 2021. Meanwhile, the CCL will go forward with nine teams as they monitor changing government regulations related to Covid-19.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new framework for reopening the state on Monday. The state will move to stage two in a reopening process on Friday by opening some low-risk businesses such as florists. Sports such as the CCL are eyeing stage three as an opportunity to get back on the field. This will permit sporting events without live audiences. Stage four conditions would allow live audiences at sporting events. There is no current timeline for when stage three or stage four will be initiated.
If baseball is played this summer there will be a variety of health protocol guidelines employed by the CCL including temperature and symptom testing and social distancing amongst players and other personnel. The CCL has taken input from medical experts that also have been conferring with the NCAA and NJCAA on how to run safe gameday operations.
“We are playing under some kind of protocol regardless of stage,” Milam said. “Depending on the stage some of the gameday and health protocol could vary.”
Fans could still be a possibility for games though social distancing would again have to be closely observed. The CCL will look to the government for guidance on all game day operations including fans.
“If our cities, counties, and governor say it is safe to have fans then we will have fans,” Milam said. “If they say it isn’t safe then we will not have them. If it’s not safe I don’t know if the Lincoln Potters operate or not.”
The Potters located in Placer County near Sacramento routinely drew close to 1,000 fans per game last season- the highest of any team in the CCL.
Fans were not the only subject debated by the nine remaining teams hoping to play this year.
“If we are going to have a season following our health and safety protocols there is no way we can enforce that with non-league teams,” Milam said. “We had to table this debate until we finalized the league schedule, but we have a big stalemate on this. It is my personal opinion as the GM of the Saints that we should not have non-league games.”
Some other teams in the CCL “in the north” disagreed with this sentiment according to Milam whose team the Saints play in Pasadena near Los Angeles. Among the four CCL north division teams for the 2020 season the Potters had originally scheduled 22 non-league games, while the Healdsburg Prune Packers, Walnut Creek Crawdads and Solano Mudcats had 18, 16 and 14 games, respectively.
A tentative league schedule starting on July 1st plans 28-32 games. The season will conclude by August 12. The CCL All-Star Game has been officially cancelled while playing a postseason remains to be decided.
With nine teams remaining in the CCL, the league anticipates they could continue operations for the year with a couple more cancellations. Milam cautions six teams would be the minimum number the league needs to run a 2020 season. However, going to three teams in either division would be challenging due to all north teams being at least a five-hour drive from any south team.
The National Alliance of College Summer Baseball a coalition of summer collegiate baseball leagues supported in part by Major League Baseball that includes the CCL has cautioned teams to not run as “rouge organizations” this summer if their league cancels the season.
A final major concern for the league is host families. Seven of the nine CCL teams use local volunteering families to house players. This continues to be discussed among the member teams as another potential problem for a 2020 season.
“We are a non-profit, not a business,” Milam said. “If you do this as a non-profit at some point do you stop if the work and the risk is greater than the reward?”